Director: Bradley Cooper
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot
A Star is Born is a thing of beauty. It’s gorgeously romantic but also authentic and emotionally searing. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are both brilliant and heartbreaking. The film is of course a love story but it’s also a portrait of creativity and commerce and the difficulty of protecting the former from the latter. Through the film, Cooper’s character Jackson Maine talks about the importance of having something to say. But how do you get the world to listen without selling your soul and becoming a cog in the star-making machinery?
This story of a successful artist mentoring and being overshadowed by his protégé is a narrative that endures. This is the fourth remake of the story – the first was made in 1937 and these roles have been played by names like Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Bollywood took a stab at it with Aashiqui 2 with Aditya Roy Kapur playing the alcoholic singer who mentors a small-town girl to stardom. And in 1973, Hrishikesh Mukherjee made the wonderful Abhimaan, about a marriage between two singers, which falls apart when the newbie wife becomes a bigger success than the husband. The soundtrack of that film is one of the finest created in Hindi cinema.
But the beauty of Cooper’s version is that it’s about so much more than jealousy. Maine is a deeply damaged man and despite all that Ally brings, she cannot heal him. Apart from acting, Cooper directed, co-produced and co-wrote this movie and some of the the songs in it. There is such honesty both in his portrayal of Maine and in his telling of Maine’s tragedy, that even the most clichéd elements ring true. When Maine and Ally first meet, he removes her fake eyebrows. That sentiment permeates the film. There are no false notes here.
Especially in the singing. Lady Gaga’s voice is like an otherworldly gift that makes you believe in a higher power. Incredibly, Cooper holds his own against her. Early in the film, when they sing together, it’s so exhilarating that I got goosebumps. Gaga is also a terrific actor. Neither her nor Cooper have any vanity. These performances are raw and emotionally vulnerable. By the end, I was quietly sobbing in my seat.
A Star is Born doesn’t push any cinematic boundaries. It isn’t edgy or provocative. But it’s emotionally rich and hugely satisfying. I’m going with four stars.